Published in The Morning Call
September 18, 2010
Donald Miller (Blue Like Jazz) never liked jazz because it doesn't resolve.
One night he listened for 15 minutes to a man on the street play the saxophone without opening his eyes. "Sometimes you have to watch somebody love something before you can love it yourself. It is as if they are showing you the way. I used to not like God because God didn't resolve."
God doesn't resolve. Intransitive. It's not about resolving problems, also problematic. Godself isn't resolvable.
Throughout our lives, God remains a question rather than an answer. Some say mystery. As we pursue the mystery, however, our questions about God do resolve into questions about ourselves, more embraceable questions.
Who have I become? Can I change for the better? What is better? How does that relate to my sisters and brothers and the good Earth? Will my being persist after death? Can I even imagine that?
I suspect you have more questions to ponder. Stay with your questions. Take those plugs out of your ears. Your questions may make better walking companions than the books or music on your iPod. Sitting straight up in your favorite chair also promotes good reception, as does lying in a hospital bed which, or course, prompts many questions.
Along your way, remember that no problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it. I'm told Albert Einstein said that. By "level of consciousness," think the same thought processes, the same assumptions, mental models, or approaches to the issues.
As you do this, you are truly engaged in prayer. Don't let it frighten or embarrass you. "Be not afraid," as Jesus so often said. The hard work of true conversion and discipleship comes later. You may embrace that as well.
Like others before me, I recoil from pop theology on bumper stickers. For example, God is the answer. With others, my knee-jerk reaction has been: What's the question?
Christian theology, centered of course in Jesus Christ, suggests, "No one knows the Father except the Son" (Matthew 11:27). Therefore, we look to the Son and his continuing manifestation in our lives.
Christian theology suggests also that God is like Jesus, that God is like the body of Christ in a Christian community that exists for the sake of the world, for the sake of those who do not belong to it. This is the theology I have absorbed over the past 28 years in the Episcopal Church. Some call it a theology of incarnation, i.e., God continues to become flesh. That, for me, is the core of our church's belief, God among us, seeing God in people regardless of religion, ethnicity, nationality or sexuality.
Staying with a theology of punctuation, move from question mark to comma. The United Church of Christ uses the comma as the symbol of its "God is Still Speaking" media campaign. It was inspired by actor Gracie Allen (1895-1964) who said, "Never place a period where God has placed a comma." A comma invites conversation, imagination and contemplation. A comma suggests that God is still speaking. And, as Princeton Theological Seminary professor Kenda Creasy Dean has been known to say, "God has a preferential option for the unlikely."
Though God doesn't resolve, this column must. Here's my take, beyond what I've already written. We can't know God. No one of us. Flee those who say they do. Only the Son does. God's continuing presence on earth as the body of Christ, however you imagine it, suggests what God is like. God doesn't speak to any of us directly. God's love passes through others to us, and through us to reach someone else. Often not with words. Usually not in ways we ever discover.
[Canon Bill Lewellis, firstname.lastname@example.org, a recently retired Episcopal priest, served on the Bishop's staff of the Episcopal Diocese of Bethlehem for the past 24 year and on the Bishop's staff of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Allentown for 13 years.]